Trude Fleischmann (1895 – 1990)
A portrait photographer for more than fifty years, Trude Fleischmann was one of a group of young, confident, Jewish, woman photographers opening their own studios in Vienna after World War I. These women forged their careers in what was then considered an exclusively masculine profession.
Apprenticed from 1913 to 1916 as a photographer at the Graphische Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt in Vienna, Trude worked briefly at the studios of the famous Madame D’Ora and of Hermann Schieberth. In 1919 she became a member of the Viennese Photographic Society and opened her own studio the following year. She mentored the American photographers Helen Post, who went on to photograph the Navajo, and her more well-known sister Marion Post Wolcott, who documented the Great Depression for the Farm Security Administration (FSA).
Trude’s studio became a cultural mecca. Besides her Pictorialist portrait work, she experimented with modernist dance photography and nudes. The rise of modern dance and athletics provided her with beautiful, willing models and the opportunity to create sensual, experimental photographs such as her 1925 photograph of Viennese dancer Katta Sterna.
She published these artistic portraits of music, dance and theatre celebrities such as Maria Schanda and Sybille Binder in the illustrated press of the time, Die Bühne, and Uhu, and – in 1929 – participated in the German Werkbund exhibition Film und Foto in Stuttgart.
This success was short-lived and Trude was forced to flee Nazi persecution in 1938, along with Helen, taking only around 40 of her negatives with her. They settled in New York, where she opened a studio at 127 West 56th Street which she ran for 30 years with fellow Viennese émigré Frank Elmer. She photographed her émigré community, including architect Adolf Loos, painter Arthur Kokoschka and physicist Albert Einstein and branched out into fashion, travel and street photography.
A large selection of her work is held in the Wien Museum online collection. This work featured in two exhibitions: Overseas: The Flight and Exile of Austrian Photographers, 1920-1940 (1998) – which also featured works by Trude Geiringer and Edith Tudor-Hart, and in Trude Fleischmann: The self-assured view (2011).
By Paula Vellet